ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There’s not much left of the iconic Marcal Paper Mill.
The fire that destroyed nearly the entire building was still burning on Thursday. Firefighters were working around the clock trying to put out the flames, CBS2’s Reena Roy reported.
The mill was a staple in Elmwood Park. Many hours later, smoke still filled the air. The remnants of the structure were frozen over from the water thrown on it by firefighters Wednesday night.
The red Marcal sign that shined brightly for years was engulfed in flames. Its red glow quickly disappeared as the building diminished to debris, destroying the iconic view.
“Coming home from a long trip and seeing the Marcal sign lit, letting you know you’re home. It’s gonna be hard for everybody,” Elmwood Police Chief Michael Foligno said.
For decades the paper factory was a beacon of commerce in the area, standing tall near Route 80.
On Wednesday night, drivers watched the building collapse before their eyes. The wind sent heat and embers flying for miles. Some homes nearby were evacuated.
“I live 20 houses down. Sparks everywhere on the roofs,” Elmwood Park resident Voytk Hlawacz said. “I was worried about that house gonna catch on fire. It looks scary. Two minutes later cops came, moved everybody, evacuated everybody.”
Officials said roughly 90 percent of the complex was destroyed. Demolition crews are expected to clear debris and rubble so firefighters can search for a cause and ensure all hot spots are taken care of. In all, 200 workers were inside when the blaze broke out at around 5:15 p.m. Amazingly, they all got out safely, but are now without jobs.
“Devastating. That was a main hub for employment for a lot of people for a lot of years. Generations, families,” Foligno said.
Authorities said there have been multiple fires at the mill in years past, including one in 2017. Those were put out with the help of the factory’s own fire brigade, but the weather this time around made things much worse.
“I firmly believe had the wind not been the way it was last night we wouldn’t even be talking right now,” Foligno said.
Those whipping winds fueled the fire that officials say started in a warehouse with paper rolls inside. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. The mill is more than 50 years old, first owned by the Marcalis family and then sold to Soundview Paper Company.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was expected to visit the site on Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, public schools in the area were closed because of the road closures. Officials said they will reopen Friday.